Connors Remembered As Remarkable Pastor

By Carol Robidoux and Katharine McQuaid
Union Leader (Manchester NH)
July 24, 2002

Say the name Rev. Richard Connors and the energy in Mary Freitas' voice kicks up an audible notch.

"He was a dynamo," recalled Freitas, a 37-year member of St. Pius X parish in Manchester, where Connors served for 18 months before his death in November 1999.

"His impact on the church was amazing. He was remarkable. His enthusiasm for the community and the parish -- the people just took to him," said Freitas.

Connors' sudden death rocked the congregation, said Freitas.

"It was such a blow because people couldn't understand how God could do this to us, just when we needed him so much," said Freitas.

Kevin Costin, 18, was an altar server at Connors' funeral Mass. "He was a unique pastor. He never stood at the podium when he gave the homily. He always made it understandable, especially for young people," said Costin.

Connors was a Manchester native who graduated from Bishop Brady in 1960. He attended St. Anselm College before he went to St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 and had a number of assignments in New Hampshire, including St. Michael in Exeter and St. Catherine of Siena in Manchester, before taking the assignment at St. Pius X in June 1998.

Richard Bunker, a member of the parish's finance committee, said church members are devastated by the latest news of their former pastor.

"I can't think of one person who doesn't think highly of him," said Bunker, who recalls Connors as an active priest who really turned around a parish that had "sort of stalemated" in the decade before his arrival.

"Dick just brought young families back to the parish and children. He brought the parish back to life in the year-and-a-half he was here," said Bunker.

In that time, Connors reduced the parish's debt from more than $ 250,000 to just $ 90,000, Bunker said.

"After he died we used his image to run a debt-reduction campaign," he said. "It was hugely successful, and it's largely because people had such a good memory and high opinion of him."

Paul Porter remembers the late Rev. Richard Connors vividly, not just from his down-to-earth way with Sunday Mass at St. Pius, but also as the little brother of one of his best school pals.

"I knew him as little Dicky Connors -- his older brother, Frank, and I are close friends. We all went to St. Joseph's grammar School together," said Porter, who is a member of St. Pius X parish. "He was nothing but a nice kid. I've heard nothing but good things about him. His father was the janitor at St. Joseph's," said Porter.

He says the latest controversy involving a Manchester priest and the archdiocese is disheartening.

"With everything that's going on, I, for one, am disappointed so much is turning up. What bothers me is if a priest strays as a human being, well, that's part of the human condition. It's the covering up that's worse," said Porter.

He said Connors had a unique, unexpected style.

"One Sunday, a hot one in August, everybody showed up hoping Father Connors wasn't going to talk too long -- we all wanted to get to the beach," said Porter.

Connors told the congregation that the bishop had directed him to give a 45-minute homily on the Blessed Trinity, said Porter.

"Then Father Connors says, 'Well, it's a mystery. Deal with it,' and got on with the service. He was really a people's priest," said Porter.


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